16 Nov 2005

Singapore accuses UN of misleading

The problem seems to be one of the law in Singapore stating that the death penalty is mandatory to those caught trafficking in certain quantities of illegal drugs and that this law is somehow "entirely open, fair and transparent", according to due process of law, in Singapore. Question the mandatory nature of the law and the reply that comes back is its the law.

The idea that Singapore is now advising the special rapporteur of the United Nations on how to do his job is the classic 'attack the man and completely ignore the ball' tactic of Singaporean debate. Unable to engage in debate, because its mandatory - discredit your opponent by telling him he is doing a bad job, for not recognising the 'fact' that it is mandatory.

However the title of the article alludes to a wider issue, Philip Alston monitors the death penalty for the United Nations not Australia.

Wednesday Nov 16 22:32 AEST
Singapore has spurned a United Nations bid to halt the execution of Australian drug trafficker Nguyen Tuong Van, accusing its special rapporteur of trying to mislead the public.

In a strongly worded statement, the city-state said Philip Alston, the Australian who monitors the death penalty for the world body, of diminishing the credibility of his office.

The blunt rejection appears to close off a final avenue of hope for Nguyen, 25, who is expected to be hanged this month after being arrested at Singapore's Changi Airport in 2002 with almost 400 grams of heroin.

Late on Tuesday, Mr Alston had in a surprise move appealed to Singapore to halt Ngyuen's execution, saying that it would violate international legal standards.

The statement followed a last-ditch appeal to the UN from M Ravi, a Singapore human rights lawyer who has attempted to stave off the Melbourne mans execution.

Nguyen was sentenced to death in March 2004 and all appeals for clemency from his legal team and the Australian government have so far been rebuffed.

"We regret that Mr Alston has attempted to mislead the public. In doing so, he diminishes the credibility of his office," the Singapore statement from the ministry of foreign affairs said.

In his appeal, Mr Alston had focused particular attention on Singapore's mandatory use of the death sentence.

"Such a black and white approach is entirely inappropriate where the life of the accused is at stake," Mr Alston said.

Singapore law dictates that anyone convicted of carrying more than 15 grams of heroin, 30 grams of cocaine, or 500 grams of marijuana is deemed a trafficker, and must be hanged.

The local courts have no discretion to consider extenuating circumstances in such cases.

But Singapore said that the case law cited by Mr Alston was inappropriate.

"Mr Alston grossly misrepresented the facts in claiming that the Singapore Court of Appeal considered a range of cases decided by the Privy Council (but) failed to examine the most relevant case of all ie Boyce and Joseph v The Queen," the Singapore statement said.

"That case was in fact cited by Nguyen's lawyers in their written arguments and the Court of Appeal dealt with it in its judgment".

The Singapore statement went on to claim Mr Alston had overstepped his UN authority in even considering Nguyen's case.

"Mr Nguyen was tried and convicted in an entirely open, fair and transparent manner, according to due process of law, as has been acknowledged by the Australian government," it said.

"Therefore this case does not fall within (Mr Alston's) mandate."


spawn said...

So your stand is that the Singapore controlled Government is entirely wrong, and the UN human rights expert is totally right?
Not forgetting the fact that this law has been in place for many decades now, and although mentioned once a year in AIs report, it takes the life of an Australian Criminal to bring this to the attention of the UN office? I am thinking vested interest is involved in this.

Of course, this UN human rights expert has no official position in this case except as a representative of -his- own view, as by international standards, despite what he says, capital punishment for crimes that the state deems heinous is implemented by a majority of the countries in the UN. I to this time, have no clue what he means by "international standards of laws", except the law in the UN that any member state was not to impinge on the sovereignty of another.

Anonymous said...

"Therefore this case does not fall within (Mr Alston's) mandate." Otherwise, just wonder whose mandate (in the UN) will it fall under then?

Anonymous said...

It's a domestic judicial matter, a matter which even the Australian government has said was properly carried through to its denouement. It therefore does not come within the remit of any foreign entity, whether state or non-governmental, let alone the UN.

strom said...

"Therefore this case does not fall within (Mr Alston's) mandate." Otherwise, just wonder whose mandate (in the UN) will it fall under then?

If it doesn't fall into Kofi Annan's mandate, it doesn't fall under anyone's in the UN.


The UN also did say the US-led invasion of Iraq was manifestly illegal. Singapore is an ally of the US and has also sent troops to Iraq, but I didn't hear the UN admonishing us on taking that stand then.

But then, isn't Philip Alston an Aussie? And isn't Australia an ally of the US, too? I supposed if the war was illegal, we should all be charged for abetting murder..

Anonymous said...

Copyright 2005 Nationwide News Pty Limited
Herald Sun (Melbourne, Australia)

November 17, 2005 Thursday


LENGTH: 732 words

HEADLINE: Nguyen's noose strangles logic

BYLINE: Mirko Bagaric

THE Federal Government should be commended for the measured yet pointed representations it has made to the Singapore Government to save Melbourne man Tuong Van Nguyen from execution.

Despite this, history indicates that the plea will fail and Nguyen will be executed.

This barbaric outcome will hopefully lead to enhanced efforts by the Australian Government to increase pressure on all countries in our region and around the globe to abolish capital punishment.

The practice has no redeeming features. Wide ranging empirical research shows the death penalty does not reduce the crime rate.

It is misguided and cruel. If Australia is to act as a moral compass it should make high-level diplomatic representations urging all nations to abolish laws and practices that involve egregious violations of fundamental human interests.

As far as capital punishment is concerned, it should not wait until the next Australian is placed on death row.

All lives count equally, irrespective of where a person happens to be born.

All people are entitled to have their life, liberty and physical integrity at least minimally protected.

That's why we are witnessing a slow, but sure, convergence in fundamental moral principles across the globe.

The notion of national sovereignty has, fortunately, been beaten down by the twin forces of globalisation and the human rights movement so that it can no longer be invoked as an impregnable shield to justify draconian laws.

The other matter that our governments should take from the sad plight of Mr Nguyen is the pointless

devastation that can be caused to people as a result of misguided and harsh sentencing laws.

Unnecessarily locking up convicted offenders in jail is obviously not as barbaric as executing them, yet jail can also have a devastating impact on people's lives.

It should be used only when the benefit to the community outweighs the hardship to the offender.

This principle is flouted by the nationwide approach to increasingly harsher sentences, which has resulted in growing prison numbers.

This needs to change. Sure it feels good to hammer criminals, but in the process we punish ourselves.

It costs more than $1000 a week to house each prisoner. This is money taken away from our hospitals and education system.

Sentencing outcomes are unpredictable and inconsistent because there are about 300 different, aggravating or mitigating variables that courts can pluck out at a whim to justify their intuitive predilections.

If you get into trouble and ask your lawyer for advice on the likely penalty, you will find your lawyer spending as

much time hoping to get a "soft judge" as swotting up on the law books.

The first step towards smart sentencing is to match the seriousness of the crime with the harshness of the penalty.

In terms of setting the amount of punishment, the main determinant should be the principle of proportionality. This requires a formula for matching the pain of criminal sanctions with the harm caused by criminal offending.

The principle of proportionality is gravely distorted by the pursuit of sentencing objectives.

The main ones are rehabilitation, community protection, specific deterrence (such as deterring the particular crook) and general deterrence (that is, deterring potential offenders).

Empirical evidence suggests these should all be discarded, except the last one. None of the others can be achieved through punishing people.

General deterrence works, but only in a limited sense.

The greatest deterrent to wrongdoing is not the size of the penalty but the perceived risk of detection.

Community protection should only be pursued in relation to offenders whose crimes show an underlying personality disorder that makes then likely to re-offend.

Pedophiles and those who commit very violent offences fit this bill.

SO where does that leave us in terms of how to punish crooks?

The main rationales underlying the move towards harsher penalties are community protection and the view that higher penalties reduce crime.

Given that these objectives are in most cases flawed, we should be watering down the punishment.

At the same time, we should be striving for a lower crime rate.

This may seem to be overly ambitious, but it is not unattainable.

Prof MIRKO BAGARIC, Deakin Law School. He is the author of Punishment and Sentencing: A Rational Approach.

Anonymous said...

"It's a domestic judicial matter.."

If drug is harmful, why the huge investment with the large drug lord in the first place? On one hand, we could be providing the source and on the other hand, trying to eradicate the problem. And we say we are protecting our own citizens. It truly sounds hypocritical! What principle is this?

In fact, it does not only harm our own citizens but also other citizens of other countries and the world at large. It appears like a nice and sweet apple but rotten at the core. Would be good to look within us and check ourselves. Are we partly responsible for this social menace?

spawn said...

what do you mean huge investment with the large drug lord?

So how do we get rid of this "social menace"?

Anonymous said...

You seem to join us after the Nyugen's case. Well, pls read in the November article on "Tough on drugs and soft on drug lord" and all the arguments therein posted.

Anonymous said...

Some people deal in facts which are clearly presented in the open domain and are not challenged (not even by the Australian government); while others deal in fantasy. If anything goes beyond fantasy into the realm of reality then there are any number of avenues to present the facts to the tribunal of world opinion which would then pass judgement. Look out of the window, everything is as you see it...

Anonymous said...

There's no smoke without fire.

Anonymous said...

Except if it's simply a game of smoke and mirrors created by frustrated people... That's why it doesn't even get to first base.

Anonymous said...

"That's why it doesn't even get to first base."??

The late ex-President, Dr Wee Kim Wee, could pardon a criminal from death sentence. Unlike the present.............well, just wait as these people will have their day......

Anonymous said...

hey the above sounds very much like how i like to put it: LKY and CJ YPH r so old, let's just see how long more they can last...until they themselves get sentenced under the law of nature hahaha!